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While Lance Armstrong usually favors simple aesthetics—who can forget the monochromatic Livestrong bracelet craze—it seems that the seven-time Tour de France winner is seeking something a little more high-profile to decorate his bicycle this year. Cue art star Damien Hirst. The Times’ ArtsBeat Blog reports the artist has created a design that will appear on Armstrong’s bike during the last stage of this month’s race. Armstrong described himself over Twitter as “speechless” after seeing the butterfly design.
While colorful, airborne creatures seem to be a wonderfully cheery symbol for the Tour de France veteran’s final stretch, we wonder if Armstrong is aware of Hirst’s checkered butterfly past. As a less well-known artist in 1991, Hirst filled a gallery with hundreds of tropical butterflies, allowing them to live out their natural life span as a metaphor for mortality. Butterflies have also placed Hirst on the receiving end of some nasty accusations, as when Chef Marco Pierre White accused Hirst of plagiarizing a 1999 painting Butterflies on Mars. (Not to mention when PETA called him a sadist in 2003 after he dismembered thousands of butterfly wings for a show at White Cube.) It is difficult to ignore the sinister associations surrounding Hirst’s previous butterflies—but we’d really like to, considering how much Armstrong’s story is about survival rather than encroaching and inevitable mortality. If you want to avoid them too, you can make a bid on the bike—it will be auctioned off for Armstrong’s charity, Livestrong, after the race.